Mormon Tabernacle Choir Blog

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Anxiety, Depression, and Music

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.”

Although anxiety and depression are separate conditions, many people who suffer with depression also have anxiety or vice versa. The ADAA states, “Nearly one-half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.” A Psychology Today article also points out the fact that researchers and doctors have been shifting toward a new conclusion about the disorders, stating, “Depression and anxiety are not two disorders that coexist. They are two faces of one disorder.”

David Barlow, Ph.D., founder and director emeritus of the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders at Boston University, believes that anxiety and depression are intertwined. “Anxiety is a kind of looking to the future, seeing dangerous things that might happen in the next hour, day or weeks. Depression is all that with the addition of ‘I really don’t think I’m going to be able to cope with this, maybe I’ll just give up.’ It’s shutdown marked by mental, cognitive or behavioral slowing,” explained Barlow.

In 2013, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave a general conference talk titled “Like a Broken Vessel,” in which he addressed those who suffer from mental illness or emotional disorders. Elder Holland declared, “Though we may feel we are ‘like a broken vessel,’ as the Psalmist says, we must remember, that vessel is in the hands of the divine potter. Broken minds can be healed just the way broken bones and broken hearts are healed. While God is at work making those repairs, the rest of us can help by being merciful, nonjudgmental, and kind.”

It can be difficult in our society to talk about mental illness. It can also feel embarrassing for people who suffer to ask for help, but many solutions are available. In addition to treatments for anxiety and depression such as properly prescribed medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both, studies have increasingly shown a link between music and improving medical outcomes and quality of life.

Music Therapy

Music therapy uses music, in vocal and instrumental form, to treat people with mental health needs. Due to the familiarity of the music, and the emotions associated with it, music therapy acts as a neurological stimulator that incites reactions of a non-musical nature. Although music therapists are trained professionals, you do not need a music therapist to enjoy the effects of music.

Music Healing

The term “music healing” doesn’t mean a cure, but it can certainly can help. Dr. Alice H. Cash, Ph.D., said, “Healing has to do with decreasing symptoms, physically, physiologically, psychologically, emotionally, or spiritually. Music healing is the process of using already composed music in a passive (listening) or active (singing, playing an instrument) way to ameliorate symptoms and help a person to feel better. Music healing has a spiritual component; not religious but spiritual.”

The American Music Therapy Association lists many benefits of music therapy on individuals with anxiety and depression, using supporting studies. Here are some of the benefits listed:

• Reduced muscle tension
• Increased self-esteem
• Decreased anxiety
• Enhanced interpersonal relationships
• Increased motivation
• Successful and safe emotional release

Here are some quotes on music and anxiety and depression from additional studies (click the highlighted text below for sources):

  • “Music effectively reduces anxiety and improves mood for medical and surgical patients, for patients in intensive care units and patients undergoing procedures, and for children as well as adults.” See study »
  • “Music has been shown to relax and reduce anxiety, modifying release of stress hormones, cardiac function and respiratory pattern.” See study »
  • “Although there are wide variations in individual preferences, music appears to exert direct physiologic effects through the autonomic nervous system.” See study »
  • “Music therapy is an effective complimentary treatment for many conditions, especially anxiety and depression. Activities often include listening to, performing, improvising, or composing music, either alone, in a group, or alongside the therapist.” See study »
  • “One of the most effective uses of music therapy is in finding natural anxiety relief. Research shows that music can positively influence regions of the brain that manage anxiety and stress, with music therapy able to significantly lower anxiety levels.” See study »
  • “A large body of research has found that music therapy benefits depression as well. One review on the subject concluded that in all studies reviewed, listening or making music reduced depression.” See study »

Enjoy 10 relaxing songs performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square, to help relieve the symptoms of anxiety and depression: